years and it had been 2005 that he last won later in
a season than December. There is something differ-
ent driving him this season: impending fatherhood.
Confident since winning Alta Badia on home turf, he
attacked. In bib No. 4 he finished two-hundredths
behind, a virtual tie, all things considered.
The top 10 first-run placings were flooded with sin-
gle-digit bibs. Raich got sixth from the 11th start, Di-
dier Cuche eighth from the 16th start and Alexis Pin-
turault, despite skiing without a glove or pole most of
the run, posted ninth from the 10th start. Likewise,
at the bottom of the top 30, just two skiers with num-
bers above 30 made the cut for the second run, Slo-
vene Janez Jazbec and German Stefan Luitz.
All this illustrates the importance of the start num-
bers, and the flip 30 assured the winner was go-
ing to have to wade through some ruts to get the
job done. The similarity to the SG races was that a
single mistake, even a small one, meant the anchor
was dropped. It became a matter of who made the
fewest mistakes in a situation wrought with possible
Beyond Hirscher and Blardone, it was going to take
some major second-run work. Aksel Svindal, in third,
was 0.57 out. Cyprien Richard, in fourth, was 0.94
out with five through 12 all encapsulated between
one and 1.5 seconds off Hirscher. Several of the big
guns of the GS tour were further out in time, but no
racer was far enough back to have a shot at a rela-
tively unscathed course.
Jean-Baptiste Grange won the second run, which is
astounding in itself as he scored 12 GS points total
last season and 36 the year before that. He finished
fourth on the day, a career-best GS showing for the
former slalom champ.
Third place went to Hannes Reichelt. He was not in
the top 10 of any split all day. But he started in the
middle of the pack and skied within himself, making
no major time-sucking mistakes.
We know that Blardone won. He was 0.16 ahead
of Hirscher and climbed the top of the padded fin-
ish area fencing to celebrate with fans and family,
making, as they say, a show. And Hirscher was eas-
ily second, the first-run lead enough to withstand
the pace of Reichelt and charge of Grange. He was
happy with that. “I didn’t lose 20 points,” he said.
“I gained 80.” He now rested atop the overall and
GS standings with a chance — a better-than-even
chance — to win himself some World Cup hardware
for his mantel.
Hirscher’s second run was fantastic. Blardone made
fewer mistakes, charged harder, and smoothly made
a critical transition through a blind gate that caused
many to falter. But the second-run split times reveal
the reality of the race. Hirscher was 28th-fastest to
the first split, 26th to the second and 20th to the third.
Blardone was 20th, 18th and 18th in the same splits
and got the win.
Ligety finished ninth on the day, a disaster for his
hopes of retaining the GS crown. Tommy Ford post-
ed 19th and Tim Jitloff 22nd, both results that were
better in execution than the numbers show.
The top 25 in the discipline get invited to Finals. Af-
ter this race, with one more before Schladming, Jitl-
off was 24th, Ford 28th and both with a shot.
Ligety was second in the GS standings, 132 points
behind Hirscher, who had finished every GS on the
season winning three, placing second twice, fifth
once and sixth in the opener. Ligety would need a
couple of wins and a miracle. Blardone was 187
back and Reichelt, in fourth, has been mathemati-